Meet the balloon pilots: Bear Claw, Spirit of ’76, Wildfire |

Meet the balloon pilots: Bear Claw, Spirit of ’76, Wildfire

Coming to the 2019 Steamboat Springs Hot Air Balloon Festival

Staff report

Twenty-three pilots will man their hot air balloons high above Steamboat Springs on July 13 and 14 during the Steamboat Springs Hot Air Balloon Festival. Here’s a little bit about some of the balloons, and their pilots, that you can expect to see flying high.

Frank M. Williams
Clearwater, Florida
Firefly 7-15 balloon — Bear Claw Balloon

Frank Williams has mainly ballooned in Florida and Colorado — in Florida, often over orange groves, and in Colorado, over valleys and with mountain views. Williams said increasing development in both states means finding spots to land is more challenging but still possible. Florida is more windy by far.

Jason Gabriel
Aurora, Colorado
Aerostar S-57A — Spirit of ‘76

Jason Gabriel is serving as a captain in the U.S. Air Force. The Spirit of ’76 crew is made up of many current and former military members and their families. One of Gabriel’s favorite flying activities every year is donating flights to military and first-responder organizations to share his love of ballooning with other community service members.

Skip Howes
Colorado Springs, Colorado
TBW FF8B — Wildfire

Skip Howes has flown in Steamboat Springs for 24 years and says he enjoys the valley flying, scenery and wildlife. One of Howes’ favorite memories was landing over by The Steamboat Grand in 2016, and just underneath them in the aspen trees by the east side service lot was a very nice bull moose. He alerted crew to come see the moose and altered their landing to the south to not disturb the moose, who was unaffected by the flight over him.

For more information about the festival, visit and follow the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s full coverage of the event.

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